The Burning Heart

[Lk. 24:32]---'And they said one to another, Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, an while he opened to us the scriptures?'

After the unknown Stranger had left them, the two disciples who walked to Emmaus realized that they ought to have recognized Him because He had made their hearts burn within them. Jesus Christ does not appear in visible form to us, but we can always recognize His presence by the burning heart. The infallible sign that we are in felowship with Him is that our hearts burn within us.

What is the secret of the burning heart? What did these two men intend to convey when they said that their hearts burned within them? What do we mean when we say that our hearts burn as we listen to great oratory or music? We mean our purest and deepest emotions are aroused. The conflict that goes on within us is for the moment, at any rate, transcended. Our hearts are aglow with a love of the pure and true and good. We have a sense of inward reconciliation. The chill paralysis of indifference or uncertainty is banished from our hearts and they burn within us.

It has often been remarked that what a man says is not half so important as how he says it. The wisest sayings fail to move men unless they are winged with flame. People will always go and hear the great orator, irrespective of whether or not they agree with his opinions or believe in his message. They like to feel their hearts burn. It is a pleasurable emotional luxury. They like to have their feelings pleasantly stirred, to pass from laughter to tears and from tears to laughter. That is more than half the secret of the facination of the drama. The orator and the actor stimulate our emotions, and for the moment, at any rate, we are on the glow and satisfaction of inner reconciliation. We all like to feel good, whether we are good or not. And their is the peril of the burning heart.

Many a man's religion is emotional responsiveness without practical issue. He substitutes delight in hearing the Gospel for diligence in living it. He does not see that religion is action, not vocal expression.

The influence of Jesus Christ is of another kind. He moves us both because of what He says and because it is He who says it. The fires that He kindles are not delusive flames that shine for a moment without burning, and then vanish leaving a deeper darkness than before. They are living fires that purge the heart of its impurity, and make the will like tempered steel. They glow and burn so that the temperature of our holy passions and sacred enthusiasms never falls.

Why is it that Jesus Christ kindles in our hearts 'the undying fire'? It is because He brings to earth the fire of God. The pure, ardent, aspiring flame of the spiritual life is not kindled by any earthly torch, but by the fire that descends from Heaven. There burns an undying fire in the hearts of men. By that fire I live. By that I know the God of my salvation. The Quakers have called this fire the Inward Light. In the hearts of many of us the Light has become a mere glimmer, and the fire has become a flickering spark. But 'the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.' Jesus Christ came into the world to replenish the fire, to transform the spark into a burning and a shining light.

The vision of the burning heart---The noblest and most enduring visions are born of the burning heart. It is often held that passion blinds men, that emotion clouds the reason. That is not true of the pure passion that Jesus Christ kindles. The man who sees farthest is he whose reason is filled with passion. It is thus that the gospel deals with human life. It does not begin with the brightening of the intellect ; it begins with the burning of the heart.

Our hours of greatest illumination have not been those in which we have sat down to reflect on life in the cold light of reason, but those in which we have been conscious of deep and lofty emotions stirring within us. Many of us can recall moments of high emotion in which the veil was rent asunder, and there was given to us a vision of unseen things as cast a light upon many dark problems and gave us the secret of understanding. We may not be able to pass the revelation on, but we know what we have seen and heard. The light shines and the fire burns, and neither doubt nor disappointment nor failure can quench them.

The hours of insight are those hours of supreme exaltation which come to us when the Spirit breathes upon the inward fires, and our hearts burn within us. In those hours of revelation we penetrate to the deeper meaning of life, comprehend more clearly the ways of God, see stretching before us the straight path of duty, and will the means for the fulfilment of the end.

The power of the burning heart is when the fire is kindled, we cease to be cool and calculating and full of compromise. We take great risks and embark on heroic adventures. We cast our fears to the winds, and become courageous, valiant and bold. Generals on active service attach great importance to morale. But morale is only another name for the burning heart. There are no soldiers to be feared like those who are convinced that they are contending for great ideals, and whose hearts are aflame with love of truth and freedom and justice. These are the men who will capture strongholds deemed impregnable. The same is true of our spiritual warfare. Call over the roll of those who have moved the world to righteousness, who have launched great crusades, who have led or followed in forlorn hopes, who have 'despoiled principalities and powers, making a show of them openly,' who have counted not their lives dear for the sake of the Name, and you will find them to be men and women who felt their hearts strangely warmed within them.

What is the fellowship of the burning heart?---Go back with these two disciples to Jerusalem. They found men and women whose hearts burned as theirs did. They tarried untill, on the Day of Pentecost, a new baptism of fire came upon them, and there was established the Fellowship of the Burning Heart, which went out to conquer the world. Think of those men who launched their great enterprise against the world. They were few, poor, weak, insignificant, and, for the most part, unlearned, but they set themselves undismayed to challenge the might and wealth and culture and sin of imperial Rome. They were imprisioned, exiled, tortured, and done to death, but they pursued their course with joy, and they prevailed. What was their secret? They belonged to the Fellowship of the Burning Heart. And right down the ages, wherever the Church has succeeded in her spiritual mission, wherever she has brought new hope to men, wherever she has swept away wrongs and etablished the truth in righteousness, it has been because she has merited the title, the Fellowship of the Burning Heart.

In Christ, timothy. Maranatha